21 May 2010

Extraordinary War Horse last night

Joey, the main horse from War Horse leading the Royal Household Cavalry in a Royal Salute past the Queen at the Windsor Castle

Since arriving in London this week, the highlight of our visit has been attending a performance of War Horse at the New London Theatre last night. After two sold-out seasons at the National Theatre, War Horse moved to the New London Theatre and it continues to play to full houses every night. The National Theatre together with Handspring Puppet Company in South Africa produced the show in 2007 and the extraordinary horse puppets were designed and built by puppet-master, Adrian Kohler.

A few birds, a goose and a handful of horses make up the puppet cast, which are joined by a large human cast in the show. From the moment the goose waddles on to the stage, you can see the wonderful puppetry skills that Handspring have imparted. When Joey, the young foal, makes his first appearance, the three young puppeteers breathe in unison, which really breathes life into this young horse and the illusion is complete. The breath, sounds, together with ear and tail movement give the horses an extraordinary life that makes one believe that it's actually the horses manipulating the puppeteers and not the other way round. As strange as this might sound, it's very difficult to believe that they are puppets at all.

Set in the backdrop of World War 1, this powerful story is carried by great performances and manipulation, which together, produce the best piece of theatre I have seen for a very long time.
Steven Spielberg has apparently chosen War Horse to be his next film, which is due for production next year and this seems to be when the live production will open at the Lincoln Centre on Broadway.

“This level of puppetry hasn’t been seen on Broadway before, and this is what audiences are going to find riveting,” said Handspring's Basil Jones, last year, in an interview here.

You can watch the trailer here and the making of War Horse here and a Channel 4 report here!

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